“Little Mermaid” makes a big splash

ELLSWORTH — The Ellsworth High School Mad Jesters takes its audience on a deep-sea dive with its musical production of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” which opened last weekend and will continue this coming weekend.

No scuba gear or snorkels were necessary for us to experience the enchantment of King Triton (a regal Nick Hansen) and his mer-family’s aquatic home, populated by an array of finny fish, slithery eels and octopi, colorful crustaceans, squishy jellies, a few amphibians and some screeching seabirds.

Costumer Rebecca Wright and her crew have truly outdone themselves here, and the production relies primarily on these marvelous underwater critters to dress the stage.

First and foremost, among these marine marvels, is Ariel herself (Taylor Richardson) who, with her bright red locks, sweet face and shimmery tail, was so familiar to even the toddlers in last Sunday’s audience. It seemed as if she had swum out of the cartoon and up the Union River to Ellsworth.

The perfect little mermaid keeps the show afloat with her lovely, well-pitched voice and buoyant personality, bringing to life the adventurous mer-teen who falls in love with a landlubber prince. As that prince, Michael Muflu delivers all the tall, dark and handsome any fairy tale gal could wish for, but he needs to work on his pitch and diction.

Ariel is ably assisted in her plans to pursue her prince by an aquarium full of fishy and feathery friends, not to mention a trio of slithery foes.

As Scuttle the seagull, Cody Harper is quite literally, a scream; as the love-struck Flounder, middle-schooler Caleb Leathers is a song-and-dance phenom; Kayla Hardison does a fine job with her island patois and her songs as Sebastian the Caribbean crab, even though the songs were written for a male voice and were often out of her comfortable range. Aliza Dwyer is terrifically evil as the sea witch Ursula, who takes Ariel’s voice, abetted by her awful eels Emma Henry and Seneca Maddox-Wilbur.

In a show-stopping interlude, Audrey Goodwin-Whitmore as Chef Louis is wicked, knife-wielding fun in “Les Poissons.”

There are a couple of adult EHS staff members in this show, most notably Bonnie Hardy, who is pompous perfection as Grimsby, Prince Eric’s fussbudget major domo.

Except for the extravaganza “Kiss the Girl,” Flounder’s star turn in “She’s in Love” and a delightful chorus of mersisters in “Daughter of Triton” this show is a bit light on dance and many of the most eye-catching moments are tableaux showcasing the costumes.

Collin Graebert’s invisible pit orchestra, piped in from a back room is excellent, although one wonders if some of the singers’ pitch issues might have been resolved had they been on stage or in the pit.

At two and a half hours, “The Little Mermaid” is just the right length to keep the youngsters enchanted and their parents from getting impatient.

The final four shows staged at EHS are scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 7-9, and at 2 p.m. on Saturday Dec. 9. For tickets call 667-4722.

Nan Lincoln

Nan Lincoln

The former arts editor at the Bar Harbor Times writes reviews and feature stories for The Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander.

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